John Taylor Chambers

John Taylor Chambers was born in 1844, the son of William Chambers, a master shoemaker, and his wife, Sarah Ann.  John was brought up in the family home at the house later known as 71 High Street.  In November 1871 he began renting from the Corporation the house later known as 58 High Street.  On 1st January 1872 he married a cousin, Lucy Chambers, the daughter of George Chambers, a grocer.  John made his living from music and we have an image of a billhead showing that he took on work connected with every aspect of music.  He performed, taught, sold sheet music, sold and hired musical instruments and also tuned and repaired pianos.

In 1875 John and Lucy bought Rosemount‘ at the top of the High Street on the west side.  They paid £1200 and this became the family home in Thornbury.

John and Lucy had three children: their first child, Geraldine Elsie Emily was baptised on 30th January 1876, but she died aged 1 year and 7 months on 19th August 1877.  George Courtney was baptised on 8th September 1878 and John Maurice Augustus was baptised on 6th July 1881.

In 1888 John was listed as being a Serjeant in the Thornbury Detachment of the 1st Volunteer Battalion of the Gloucester Regiment.  He had joined the unit in May 1886.  The unit was disbanded in 1895.

Like his brothers, John had a great interest in music and became a professor of music.  Rosemount was also used as a private school in which both John and Lucy were involved.  John’s area of expertise was as a teacher of music.  Our Photo Album for the Chambers family has two wonderful photographs showing the pupils outside in the garden of Rosemount.

John was choir master for many years (presumably the same choir in which Lucy sang in for a number of years) and he was organist at the parish church for a record 60 years.  John was also a committee member of the Church of England Temperance Society.  Both John and Lucy appeared to have a very active involvement in the Anglican Church.  When the parish needed to raise money for the new vicarage, the fund raising  included £8 1s raised by “Mrs Chamber’s quilt.”  This quilt had a centrepiece of the vicarage and consisted of  of red, white and blue patchwork with squares embroidered with either flowers or the initials of the town’s business people, often with motifs illustrating their trades.  It was purchased by Thornbury Museum in 2014.  Click here to read about the quilt made by Lucy Chambers

Lucy died on July 22nd 1904 aged 54.  There is a commemorative brass plaque to her in St Mary’s Church in Thornbury.  The plaque is on a lectern currently (2013) used for further information about the church and placed near the main door.  It reads “In Memoriam Lucy Chambers Called to rest July 22nd 1904 Presented by the Thornbury Communicants Union.”

The 1911 Census shows John living at Rosemount with just a domestic servant, Winifred Jennings of Buckover aged 18.  The photograph of John was printed in the Western Daily Press in September 1922.  The whole photograph shows a group of local railwaymen brought together to mark the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Yate and Thornbury Branch of the Midland Railway.  At the opening in 1872 there had been a large party organised for the children of the Town and 91 subscribers had contributed towards the costs.  Of those 91, only John was still alive in 1922 and thus invited to attend the get-together.

John died aged 80 and he was buried in Thornbury Cemetery on 1st July 1924.  Following his death, there was considerable debate about a suitable memorial to the man who had been the church organist for 60 years.  The proposals for a stained glass window (costing £350) and an extra manual for the organ (costing about £400) were rejected as being too expensive and not likely to be funded by the public subscription which had started.  In the end a memorial plaque was erected in the church with the words:

Sacred to the Memory of John Taylor Chambers
Organist at this Church for sixty years 1864 – 1924 who departed this life 27th June 1924 aged eighty years
With good will doing service as to the Lord
To record their esteem and affection this Tablet was erected by the Parishioners

George Courtney Chambers – born in 1878.  As far as we know George’s home for most of his life was Rosemount.  In the 1901 Census he was living with his parents at Rosemount.  He was described as a musician.

In September quarter 1908 George married Dorothy Ann Barron in the Kensington area of London.  The 1901 Census shows she was living with her widowed mother, Jessie M Barron, at Camp Cottage in Elberton near Thornbury.  She was then aged 18 and born in Altrincham in Cheshire.  Her mother was living on her own means with her four children.  The birthplaces of the children suggest the family moved around a lot and we don’t know what brought them to Gloucestershire.  We suspect that Jessie had been Jessie Florence S Tonge who had married Norman Barron in the Barton area of Lancashire in 1878.  Norman had been a student at law in Southport in the 1871 Census and we think he died in the Ormskirk area in 1895 aged 40.

It appears that George and Dorothy must have met whilst she was living in Elberton.  By 1908 the Barrons must have moved to Kensington in London as Dorothy’s mother died there in the December quarter 1908 aged 57.

The 1911 Census shows George and Dorothy had moved to live in a place called Whitehall near Charfield.  This census shows Dorothy was born in Bowden in Cheshire.  George’s brother, John Maurice Augustus was also living with them at the time of the census.

An electoral register dated 1919 shows George and Dorothy were living in Falfield Villa, Falfield.  This is a large house which later became the Gables Hotel which became the Best Western Gables Hotel.

By 1921 the electoral registers show George was living in Rosemount with his brother and he continued to be listed there until his death in 1949.  We were curious to know about Dorothy.  She is shown as executor in George’s probate record dated 1949 and is described as ‘Dorothy Anne Chambers, widow’.  However, the two of them had probably separated about 1920.  The special register compiled in 1939 in preparation for the war shows George was living at Rosemount with a housekeeper, Florence E. Blake.  George’s marital status is shown as ‘D’ which would normally indicate that he was divorced.  His occupation is shown as engineering designer and draughtsman.

We are grateful to a descendent of Dorothy’s for telling us that Dorothy left George and moved to live with Harold Perkins from Stone.  Harold was working as a farm labourer at the time of the 1911 census from Stone.  They had a son, John Ward Perkins, who was born in Croydon in 1922.  The 1939 register in preparation for the War shows Harold and Dorothy living in Sutton & Cheam, Surrey.  They were both employed as caretakers and Harold was noted as being in the Officer Reserve and being a Captain in R.G.A. 1917-1920.

George died aged 70 was buried in Thornbury Cemetery on 9th August 1949.  His obituary in the Gazette said: “he became a fine organist and violinist and a composer of no small merit.  He played on organs in almost every county and on occasions he had deputised at Bristol Cathedral for the late Dr Hunt as well as at Wells Cathedral.  He was at one time organist at the parish church at Chipping Sodbury and at Berkeley, his last post in that capacity being at Thornbury where in 1939 he was appointed choirmaster and later he became organist as well until 1946.  He was instrumental in getting the electric blower installed in Thornbury Church and actually collected a large proportion of the money needed for it.  He was an accomplished violinist and composed music for the organ, violin and choirs.  He introduced a series of musical recitals at Thornbury Church.

In World War 1 when he was employed at Messrs Listers of Dursley he soon became interested in the musical activities of the town.  He was appointed conductor of the Lister Male Voice Choir and organised a number of concerts.  He succeeded the late H. P. Thurston as conductor of the Thornbury Society of Gleemen in 1918 and had formerly been conductor of the Falfield Society of Gleemen.  His talents were not confined to music, having inherited his mother’s gift for drawing and painting.  His hobbies were fishing and shooting and he was a great lover of dogs”.   

Dorothy died in Surrey in 1956 aged 73‘.

Maurice Augustus Chambers

Maurice Augustus Chambers

John Maurice Augustus Chambers – born in 1881.  In the family he was known as ‘Gus’.  In most of the records we have seen he was referred to as ‘Maurice’.

Maurice got into property at an early age.  On 31st December 1900 he bought 49 High Street for £450.  On 31st December 1901 he let this property to William John Bennett for £28 per annum and by 1905 it had been sold to Thomas Exell.

Maurice was also an accomplished organist.  He was the organist at St Paul’s Church in The Hackett near Thornbury for 35 years and also took a keen and active share in all affairs of the church.  For a long period he regularly came down from London at weekends to play at Sunday services.

He left it late to get married.  On 5th July 1943, when he was about 62, he married Cicely Symes, the eldest daughter of William George Symes and his wife, Lois Hedgland (nee Cooper).  Cicely was 26 years younger than Maurice.  Although she was a Thornbury girl, she was working for the Foreign Office in Cornwall at the time and living at Zaribo, Portminster, St Ives.  The wedding was in Penzance.  We understand that Maurice and Cicely had a flat in London and kept their house at Rosemount and travelled regularly between the two.  We are grateful to Maurice and Cicely’s nephew, Peter Ball, for allowing us to copy his large collection of family photos which includes some wonderful photos of Maurice and Cicely – click here to access these photographs

Maurice was a stockbroker or insurance broker in London.  He worked as a senior executive for the Sun Life Insurance Company.  He loved cars, and from the photos in the family collection, these were predominately Rolls Royces or similar, usually convertibles.  He is remembered well in Thornbury driving through town with his yellow Rolls Royce.  He also regularly drove to Scotland to join in the shoot.  He put his dogs on the train and collected them at the other end.

As well as owning Rosemount, the 1926 Rate Book shows that he also owned Poultrybrook Farm (then occupied by Rowland Carter) and surrounding orchards and land which he occupied and that he rented some agricultural land near the Cedars from F. W. Yates.

LochnessmonsterThe Loch Ness Monster – we understand that Maurice spent a lot of his time in Scotland in the area of Loch Ness.  He has since gained national notoriety for a hoax in which he was involved there in 1933, although his part in the scam was not published until almost 60 years after his death.

In April 1934 The Daily Mail published a world exclusive showing the now famous ‘Surgeon’s Photograph’ of the Loch Ness Monster, supposedly taken by a Dr Wilson when walking near the lake.  This photograph has been the subject of speculation ever since and there have been various accounts of the source of the photo and its validity.  In 1994 it was discovered Marmaduke Arundell Wetherell had fabricated the photograph.  ‘Duke’ Wetherell had been hired by the Daily Mail to track down the monster, but he decided to get his own back on the newspaper after he had been publically ridiculed by them for not finding the monster.  Maurice Chambers of Thornbury was mentioned as Wetherell’s co-conspirator.  He seemed to be responsible for arranging for his friend, Dr Wilson, to take them to the press and to convince them that they were genuine.  At the time Maurice was a co-lessee of a wildfowl shoot on the Beauly Firth near Inverness and a friend of Wetherell’s.  It was thought that the photo was only intended as a bit of a joke, but it got out of hand and during their lifetime the conspirators wouldn’t admit to their roles in it.

Cecily Chambers

Cicely Chambers

We understand that the Chambers family had the camera used to take the photograph at Rosemount for many years after the event.  When the Daily Telegraph publicised Maurice’s role in the hoax, journalists came to Thornbury to interview Maurice’s widow, but that she was totally embarrassed by the disclosures and wouldn’t discuss anything.

Tragically Maurice was to die in 1944, within about a year of his marriage to Cicely.  He died at home in 5 Collingham Garden, London SW5.  The funeral service was held in Thornbury at St Mary’s Parish Church on 22nd September 1944.  Maurice’s brother, Courtney played the organ and led the singing with the choir.  In his will, after ensuring that Cicely and Courtney could continue to live in the house, he instructed that it should be used for the benefit of the Bristol Royal Infirmary.  After the formation of the National Health Service, the United Bristol Healthcare Trust took ownership of the property.

Cicely carried on with her career in the Foreign Office, embarking on several trips abroad.  We understand that she reached very high status within the Foreign Office becoming Vice Consul of Macao.  During this period she retained her home at Rosemount, but she also a flat in London and was stationed abroad for periods.  Cicely died in 1995 in Thornbury.  Click here to read more